Thursday, October 31, 2013

Here, Have a Pumpkin

Pictured above are the pumpkins that my wife and I carved last night in order to convince the Great Pumpkin to drop by and bring us presents. The two smaller ones were done by my wife, while the larger one was done by me.

If you don't know what Night Vale is a reference to, stop what you are doing and go here now. It's a twice-monthly podcast in the style of radio broadcasts from a small-town, local NPR kind of thing. Only Night Vale is basically if Stephen King and HP Lovecrafts monsters packed up and moved into the desert. It is very entertaining.

Our plans for Halloween are not very busy or crazy. I think I'll slap together an easy costume (mostly an excuse to wear jeans) for work, but as for home? The wife and I will just stay in and watch some TV or movies. (I'd like to watch Tales from the Crypt, but my wife is a weenie that thinks the Crypt Keeper is scary instead of endearing. Can you believe that nonsense?) Oh, and we'll hand out candy. Because this is America and we teach our kids not to accept candy from strangers except for one night out of the year when it's totally okay.

Things have been a bit rough at the ol' Casa del Nerdish lately. Originally, I thought that my schedule would clear up a couple of weeks ago. Instead, while things did get slightly better, they haven't gone completely back to normal. My day job still has me very busy lately. And while I've been happily sending out some stories, they have not been happily accepted, which is always a bummer.

NaNoWriMo is almost here. I will not be participating. Because I barely have time to breathe, much less try to cram in 1700 words a day. And this season is one of the busiest times of the year, with Thanksgiving coming soon, and work building up more steam. So I'll pass this time.

That's all for now. Back to the mines.

(Seriously, though, listen to a few episodes of Welcome to Night Vale. It's the perfect Halloween treat.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hey, I'm Not Dead

Hey, I'm not dead.

The original title for this post was "Please God, Make It Stop."  I decided that was too dark.

I have been incredibly busy with work stuff, and so I've had no time to blog. Not even over the weekend (when I usually write my posts ahead of time). I spent the entire weekend busy doing work related things so that I could prepare to do more work related things today. This is coming off of a week of 11 hour days in which I was doing extra work related things whenever I got "off work." HAHAHAHAHAHA OFF WORK--goddamn I'm funny.

So...yes. I've read the point where my brain has the physical consistency of tapioca pudding. However, today should be the last of the slog and tomorrow my work should normalize. If it doesn't, I may cry. Or eat 1000 gallons of ice cream to self-medicate.


Saw Carrie. Loved it, RottenTomatoes be damned.

Have a story making the submission rounds. Go me for finishing things.

The wife starts a new job today. I'm super proud of her. She's a badass.

Erm...pumpkin pie remains a seasonal and personal favorite.

So...yeah...good day, then.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Captain Marvel Goes "Higher" While I Stoop to Employing Cheap Puns for Blog Post Titles

I love Kelly Sue Deconnick's Captain Marvel. Carol Danvers is one hell of a supehero, and the current run of Captain Marvel titles is one of the things that I look forward to most when buying comics. The comic balances serious issues well with a light-hearted snarkiness at home with a Joss Whedon script.  It's fantastic. I bought the first two volumes and bought all the back issues to catch up with what's going on in the current run. I read the crossover with one of the Avengers titles. And I freaked when the newest issues of Captain Marvel was delayed.

See, while Captain Marvel is an amazing story...I've never been thrilled with the art. Below is the art featured on the covers:

If that were the art that was featured inside the book, I wouldn't be complaining. However, the first few issues featured art that was, in my opinion, way too dark for such a light hearted book.  It might not have been out of place with a more serious title, like earlier Daredevil or something. However, not for a comic in which Carol constantly trades quips with Spider-Man, Captain America, and Spiderwoman.

I don't know who to blame. The actual art is fine, but the coloring, and inking--again, in my opinion--are too dark.

The art got better--although it was a SIGNIFICANT shift...I didn't mind it because it was lighter in tone and fit the humor much better than the overly dark painted style of the previous art.

The style was cartoonier, but not so much that it annoyed me. Like I said, it was a jarring shift, but not a horrible style when you got used to it--the art was energetic and beautiful, with bright, vibrant colors, and  it was a much better match for the tone.

Then the art switched again during the Enemy Within storyline.

This was not a change for the better. I wasn't thrilled with this jerkier art style. The colors lost their vibrancy, and the penciling made the characters look goofy. There was one panel in one of my books where a distant shot had Carol's foot drawn to be about the size of her torso.

Switching to the Avengers titles in the Enemy Within storyline were a much appreciated change because even though the art wasn't my favorite style, it was proportional, colorful, and I was able to follow what went on without getting distracted by weird facial expressions or goofy proportions.

When Captain Marvel got postponed, I was worried. Lots of people speculated that the inconsistant art kept it from getting picked up regularly, and the low sales number meant they might cancel it, or reboot it with a new title to try to get a boost in sales.

Fortunately, and unfortunately, that appears to be true. They've relaunched Carol's Captain Marvel with a new title, Higher, and a new number one issue. This has me worried because of the sales don't improve, I might lose my favorite comic on the shelves right now, art notwithstanding. However, the new artist? Is a badass.

Check out David Lopez's art from New Mutants #34:

Look at the proportional characters, the clean lines, the bright colors. This is the kind of art style that is going to serve Carol Danvers very well. I really hope this does well. Consider buying it in March when it comes out, yeah? We need more female solo titles, and Captain Marvel is one to back.

Oh, yeah, here's the promo image from NYCC. Holy shit:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Sucks. Let's Commiserate

The following song is NSFW, which if you paid attention to the obvious.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Trying New Things

Photo from Jacob of Urbanspoon
They say that in order to really live life, you need to try new things.  That's what my wife and I decided to do recently.

It was Saturday evening.  We'd spent the whole day shopping and doing various errands and things.  Finally, we got back home, and decided we were waaaay too tired to try to cook.  We headed out, no plan on where we were going to stop.  My wife wanted Thai food or Chinese food, but both of those places were all the way across town from where we were and I didn't want to drive all that way.

We drove around for a little bit.  When we pulled up to a stop light, I noticed that where there was once a little Mexican restaurant (Arkansas is lousy with them), there was a new restaurant called "Khan's Grill."  I had no idea what it was supposed to be.  There was a chili pepper in the sign that made me think "Mexican restaurant," but the name made me think about Genghis Grill--a stir-fry restaurant we really like.

On a whim, we decided to pull in.

We milled around outside the restaurant, unsure of what the place served, whether we wanted to go in, and how expensive it might be.  Finally deciding to bite the bullet, we went in.  It was a tiny place, but even still it was empty.  One other table, an Indian family, sat off to the side.  Our waiter greeted us cheerfully, told us to sit wherever we liked.  We got some suggestions from him, then dug right in.

Holy God was the food good.

The menu said the food was "Middle Eastern," which is sort of a vague description.  It's like saying "Asian" food.  Just the same, it was fantastic.  It appears to be a blend of several cultures foods run by a nice Middle Eastern family.  The cook (father?) came out and apologized to my wife.  Whatever she ordered, they had already cooked all of the special kind of chicken it required.  He offered her a combination of a couple different kinds of kabobs.

The food was spectacular, and the owner/cook came out and visited with us a little bit after our meal.  The whole family was really sweet, incredibly helpful, and--as I've already mentioned--the food was incredible.

I hope that this restaurant does well, because not only do they deserve it for being so sweet, but also because it offers a unique, delicious style of food to an area that has a ton of Mexican restaurants and chain "American" food places.

This could just as easily been a bust, but I'm really glad that we went out of our way to try something new.  It worked out well, and it gave us a story to tell.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Writing Group Wanted

Photo from KristinNador of Flickr
Lately, I've been editing some stories to send them out for submissions.  Some were previously rejected and I'm trying to retool them before the next submission, some have only had a single draft completed, and some are going through my patented "rewrite this freaking thing a few dozen times before it falls somewhere where I like it" method.

This process takes forever for me, as I get too caught up in all of the details and lose perspective for what my work really is.  I'm sure this is true for many writers.  When I get to that point, I have to just put the story aside and let it stew for a while--oftentimes a month or so, to really get it out of my head.  In the meantime, I'll poke and prod my wife to read through it and give me her thoughts.  She tries to be as critical as she can, looking for any little thing that she can.  Sometimes, she finds some impressively big mistakes--things left over from previous drafts, awkward descriptions, terrible dialog, inconsistent characters.

The thing is, though, that there's only so far that the two of us can take this process.  She's not a writer, so there are certain things that she's not going to notice.  She won't necessarily know old hat ideas if she's not well read in a certain genre.  She might not notice some bad description that relies on cliches unless they're REALLY OBVIOUS cliches.  And me?  I'm way to invested in my own work to be completely impartial, try as I might.

I have a friend that writes that used to look at my stuff.  However, she was always too busy to look at it--either working on her own stuff, or doing just general Life Stuff.  She was always well meaning, but she never had to time to do what she wanted to do--really, thoroughly critique it--and so the job kept getting pushed back indefinitely.

It's times like this where I wish I had a writers' group that I could fire my stuff off to.  However, that's where some of my concerns come in.  My friend has one through Google+, but she also doesn't have a job, so she has the luxury of being able to give as good as she gets.  I have a day job that fills 75-80% of my time--at work and "off the job."  Therefore, I'm not sure I'd have time to do a proper exchange of manuscripts, and I know that asking someone else to read my stuff if I don't read theirs is bullshit.

I have other concerns as well.  While writers' groups can be great things, I'm also concerned about the quality of groups out there.  I've been in some groups before where people were too afraid to give their opinions and critique.  There's nothing more frustrating that having people preface their comments with "Weeeellllll..." and then pussyfoot around lest they hurt your feelings.

Then again, I've also been in groups where they didn't just critique the manuscript, they mocked it, laughing at every little piece of bad description or nonsensical plot element.  They didn't just point out errors and/or provide suggestions.  They were almost outraged that you would deign to turn in something that wasn't of the highest caliber--despite that not being what writers groups are for.

I've also seen groups with genre biases--we don't read horror, we don't read sci-fi, we don't read fantasy, we don't read anything except literary contemporary fiction with occasional magical realism elements, we don't read sex or violence or swearing, etc.

Ideally, I'd find a group that worked toward publican of some kind, that was business like in giving critiques without indulging in personal attacks.  While I'm at it, I'd also like a pony.

I'll keep you guys updated with what I find.

Monday, October 7, 2013

How to Treat Service Staff

Photo from jeffgunn of Flickr
Over the weekend, my wife and I went to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants.  We've kind of fallen off from going there because the location that was nearer to us burned down, and we found a different restaurant that was much closer.  But, my wife wanted it, so we went.

When we got there, we were very promptly seated.  They got us chips and salsa and drinks, took our orders, and then we started visiting while we ate--you know, as you do at restaurants.

Now, this restaurant isn't perfect.  We've had issues with them in the past.  One time we were there for an hour before we got our food.  We were there with friends that time.  They came by to fill our glasses maybe twice, and we ran out of chips and salsa and they never came back to fill them up.  We were pissed.

Another time that I was eating there, I ordered a chimichanga and wound up with a toothpick in my mouth.  Turns out, that's how you make chimichangas--you use toothpicks to hold the folds in place, then remove them when you're done frying them.  This time, I was not mad however.  I just wanted them to know that they'd missed one and to be a little more careful.

These incidents do not ruin the restaurant for me.  They are isolated incidents of mess ups because the restaurant is run by human beings, and therefore are going to make mistakes from time to time.  That's just the way it is.

Anyway, back to our weekend meal:

While we were waiting for our food, this very large lady came sauntering in with her friend.  The large lady's black hair was pulled back tightly away from her face.  She wore a black long sleeve shirt, and black sweat pants. The other lady was a smaller, petite blonde wearing acid washed jeans and some Ed Hardy-looking shirt.  When they were seated, the waitress came over to take their drink orders.

"I want to see your smallest glass of wine," the large lady bellowed.

The waitress hurried off and soon came back with the smallest glass they served wine in.  The large lady's face soured.

"No, no, no.  That's too small.  Instead, we'll both have sweet teas.  Now, we want limes in our sweet tea.  Not lemons.  Limes.  Do you understand."

"Ma'am, we don't have any limes.  Just lemons."

"You don't have any limes?"  Her face soured further.  "Just bring us the teas, then."

The waitress wrote on her pad, nodding, then hurried away.  While she was away getting their drinks, the large lady and her friend got their chips and salsa.  They started eating them, but when the waitress came back, the large lady looked even more upset.

"These chips are stale.  They're stale and hard and difficult to swallow.  They're not crispy.  Look at this," here she picked up a chip and broke it in half.  The chip broke in half the way chips do.  She added, "This one's fine, but a lot of these are stale and hard and I won't eat them.  I want you to go get me some fresh chips, okay?  Fresh from the fryer."

While the large lady spoke in a hard, too-loud voice, the waitress cast her eyes around the room, as if she were looking for someone that might help her.  She nodded to the large lady and headed off to get some new chips.  Meanwhile, the large lady began bitching about her tea.

"This tea isn't sweet enough.  Here, I'm gonna need to add some Sweet-N-Low to it just to make it drinkable."

(Incidentally, the tea there is terrible, but not because it's not sweet enough.  It tastes weird...almost dirty.  However, I've had the same problem at Subway, so I suspect it's not the water, but the tea leaves they use to make the tea.  It's why I always just get soda, instead.)

The waitress came back with the lady's fresh chips.  The lady snatched one out of the basket, popped it into her mouth, chewed, and grimaced.

"These aren't fresh either.  Look, I want fresh chips.  Chips that are just out of the fryer, dripping with grease, understand me?"

The waitress looked like she was trying to explain how they couldn't do that, and finally called the manager over, who nodded and headed back into the kitchen.

Now, at this point, my wife and I were so annoyed at this woman's bitching, that we were hoping they would just kick the two women out and refuse to serve them.  My wife said, "They have the right to refuse service to anyone.  Refuse it to them!  Jesus Christ, I've never seen someone bitch so much at a place where people make and bring food TO YOU!"

Because we are who we are, we started making loud, sarcastic complaints of our own.

"My ice is made of water.  I clearly asked for the frozen tears of the wait staff," I drolled.

My wife chuckled and added her own. "We've been here for almost an hour and my cheese has cooled.  I demand someone come and breath on my plate to warm it back up!"

I hoped the lady heard us and got pissed off enough to leave.  Eventually, because this is a cruel, unjust world, she got her fresh chips and began order, during which she demanded the each side and the entree all get their own individual plates.

Ladies and gentlemen, the point of this post is this:  do not act like this. Not only do I assume that if you're reading this, you are adults, but I assume you're humans.  This woman wasn't treating the wait staff like they were humans.  She was treating them like they were slaves.

I've never been a waiter per se.  I have, however, been forced to car hop from time to time when I worked at Sonic and it got too busy for the actual car hops.  Being a waiter or waitress is a thankless, shitty job.  They're expected to be on their game, smiling and cheerful no matter how busy they get, how over worked they are, or how obnoxious their customers are.  They're often treated condescendingly, rudely, and any mistakes in the kitchen are often treated as the waiter or waitress's fault.  For this horrible treatment?  They get almost no pay, instead they're forced to rely on tips.

I honestly hope the old cliche was true and they spit all over that lady's food because she was a horrible, horrible person that expected to be treated like she was a goddamned queen.

I'm not saying that if a waitress is doing a terrible job that you have to be happy about it.  I'm just saying, show a little basic human decency.  Look around.  Is it busy?  Is the waitress overworked?  Do they seem like they're new to the job?  Then for God's sake, give the poor workers a break.

The old chestnut "treat others how you want to be treated" holds true more often than not.  If we all took a little time to think about how we're treating someone else, we might make the world just a little less shitty.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Your Sunday Earworm

This album made for fantastic yard-mowing music.

Buy Hugh Laurie's Let Them Talk on Amazon here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

It's Too Serious Lately: Enjoy Some Black Nerd Rantings

Thursday, October 3, 2013

For the Last Time: YES, Global Warming Is Real!

Real talk from Hank Green about one of the most provable and somehow still most hotly debated scientific problems facing our world.

Also, the sources that Hank links to in the doobly-doo:

CO2 greatly amplifies warming after it is initiated:

After 1975 there was little connection between solar activity and the earth's temperature:

Indeed, if it were the sun, we should be cooling:http://rspa.royalsocietypublishing.or...

Detailed look at how the urban heat island affect is removed from climate science data:

Satellite measurements show warming trends as well as surface measurements:

Ice core reconstructions show the same thing:

The earth is not cooling:

The myth of the 70's Cooling Consensus:

Loss of Antarctic Land Ice:

Melting land ice results in increase in sea ice:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Obamacare is Good. Here's Why.

John Green gives a fantastic breakdown of the American Healthcare system as it exists now. A lot of the stuff that John Green mentions being a problem are also at least partially addressed in Obamacare.  Again, Obamacare ain't perfect, but my God is it a needed first step.

Fuck you, Congress. Fuck you.

And Joe Hill brings up a very good point about why the individual mandate is important:
Some people worry if they don’t get insurance, they will go to jail. This is a falsehood. However, in 2014, if you do not have health insurance, you have to get some, or pay a fee. And you say: but why do I need health insurance?? I’m not sick and I don’t need medical care! But if you get hit by a drunk driver, you will need care. Or if you slip on the ice. Or if you’re diagnosed with a malignant tumor. Everyone is in the health care market… ill health is an inevitable part of the human existence.

This isn't forcing you into Obamacare.  This is saying have health insurance OF SOME KIND before January. I mean...c'mon.  Countless studies have shown that people just dropping into the emergency room is SO MUCH WORSE than a government funded health system would be.

Tobias Buckell actually points out that we've had socialized health care since the 80's.
So stopping the government, all the fits thrown this week, all this misery and the high, high cost of this shutdown to the economy, will come merely because Republicans refused to pay for a mandate their party created in 1986. (also, if you’re a Republican or Tea Party and not campaigning against EMTALA, I don’t take you seriously if you say you’re fighting socialized medicine, because you’re not, you’re just fighting to not have to pay for it).

About the Government Shutdown?

"This is all about stopping a law that increases taxes on rich people and reduces subsidies to private insurers in Medicare in order to help low-income Americans buy health insurance. That's it. That's why the Republican Party might shut down the government and default on the debt."

I hate situations where I deal with generalities.  I like to take the world as a nuanced and interesting series of pastels and bolds, lights and darks, yings and yangs.  The world is beautifully diverse, amazingly complex.  Even the most dickish of human beings is, in fact, a human being.  They have their own hopes and fears and dreams.

And yet, most of the DC Republicans, specifically all of those that ascribe to the "Tea Party" sensibilities, are some of the most useless, dumbfuck groups of people I have ever seen.

You know, I hardly understand everything that is in Obamacare.  And since it was created by Washington, DC, I know for damn sure the Obamacare bill isn't perfect.  That's just the nature of things created in DC--a series of compromises to reach something sort of resembling what you have as a goal.  Obamacare is still some of the most meaningful and progressive reforms to the healthcare system that we've seen in years.  It is absolutely a good thing, despite some of the hiccups that will inevitably come with it.

If the Tea Party wanted a different bill, they should have come up with a different bill.  This was created BY FUCKING CONGRESS.  It's not like they didn't have the opportunity for input.

But that's not what this is about.  This isn't even honestly about what the above quote says.  No, it's about grandstanding.  About taking a stand against the black guy that these guys haven't liked since literally the day he got elected for his first term. It's all about dismantling the government one piece at a time.  That's been their goal since they first popped up doing their little "grass roots" movements--that were funded by giant corporations and their mega-rich owners.

The book It's Even Worse Than It Looks details how Republicans, because of the Tea Party, have been driven so far right of center that, even if you could lob some complaints at the Democrats, it pales in comparison to the extremist views and actions of the their right-wing counterparts.

It's an interesting, genius long-con, too.  As Chuck Wendig points out in his post, the goal is to shift all rights to the corporations, who have taken control of our government and held it in a stranglehold.  They're like the yeerks from Animorphs, wrapping their slimy slug bodies around our nations brain to strangle all individual and humanitarian thought from them and replacing it with HOW TO HELP BIG BUSINESS.

The Republican Party, in it's current incarnation, is going the way of the dinosaur.  They're kicking and screaming like a spoiled child being dragged out of a grocery store because they know that their run of things is ending fast.  It won't be immediate, it won't be clean, but they're going away.
"A CNN/ORC International poll released Monday morning, hours before funding for the government is scheduled to run out, also indicates that most Americans think Republicans in Congress are acting like spoiled children in this fiscal fight, with the public divided on whether the president is acting like a spoiled child or a responsible adult.
According to the poll, 58% say congressional Democrats are acting like spoiled children, with that number rising to 69% for the GOP in Congress. Only one in four say congressional Republicans are acting like responsible adults."

Just once, it'd be nice to see the politicians in DC work for something other than their goddamned reelections.  Just once, it'd be nice to hear that Congress has worked for something besides earning more political points from their investors and lobbyists.

I'm only 24.  In my short few years, I've seen Barack Obama get elected twice.  Our country, as a whole, has made amazing strides toward equality in marriage.

And yet, we've also seen the Supreme Court strike down the Voting Rights Act, the Republican Party fight tooth and nail against a reform in healthcare, a major political candidate write off 47% of the country, and seven mass shooting incidents resulting in a little impotent outrage but no actual gun law reforms--that's 151 victims, just so you know.  

What in the actual fuck, America?


Joshua Holland has some incredibly salient points today about the Tea Party and their so called "compromise."
A negotiation is between two parties that want different things and come to some compromise. Nobody should want a shutdown or a default and passing budgets and paying the federal government’s debts aren’t Democratic priorities. Rather, what we are seeing now is a “negotiation” in which Republicans are demanding a lot and offering absolutely nothing in return. MSNBC’s Steve Benen offered a handy chart to make this point clear:
The reason all of this is important is simple: A faction within one of our parties has rejected the basic structure of our democratic system – the separation of powers. The only thing that will break the fever that grips them – the only thing that can break the fever – is intense public backlash, and not just from Democratic partisans, but also from the majority of Republicans who don’t identify with the tea party movement and oppose these antics. By muddying the waters of what’s really going on here with their perpetual false equivalence, the Beltway media is making that reckoning unlikely to occur.
I just...I'm just so fucking tired, man.